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1 Lecturer: Sebastian Coope Ashton Building, Room G.18 E-mail: COMP 201 web-page: Lecture 11 – Formal Specifications 1COMP201 - Software Engineering

2 Formal Specification - Techniques for the Unambiguous Specification of Software Objectives: To explain why formal specification techniques help discover problems in system requirements To describe the use of: algebraic techniques (for interface specification) and model-based techniques (for behavioural specification) To introduce Abstract State Machine Model (ASML) 2COMP201 - Software Engineering

3 Formal Methods Formal specification is part of a more general collection of techniques that are known as ‘formal methods’ COMP313 “Formal Methods” These are all based on the mathematical representation and analysis of software Formal methods include Formal specification Specification analysis and proof Transformational development Program verification 3COMP201 - Software Engineering

4 Formal Methods in reality When software was first developed Is was done using assembly language No OO, no high level languages limited understanding of software testing Modern software development Many ways to make high quality software So Mostly formal methods not used The most acceptable techniques are approaches like programming by contract (e.g. Eiffel) COMP201 - Software Engineering4

5 Acceptance of Formal Methods Formal methods have not become mainstream software development techniques as was once predicted Other software engineering techniques have been successful at increasing system quality. Hence the need for formal methods has been reduced Market changes have made time-to-market rather than software with a low error count the key factor. Formal methods do not reduce time to market The scope of formal methods is limited. They are not well- suited to specifying and analysing user interfaces and user interaction for example Formal methods are hard to scale up to large systems 5COMP201 - Software Engineering

6 Use of Formal Methods Their principal benefits are in reducing the number of errors in systems so their main area of applicability is critical systems: Air traffic control information systems, Railway signalling systems Spacecraft systems Medical control systems In this area, the use of formal methods is most likely to be cost-effective 6COMP201 - Software Engineering

7 Background Reading 1) “Formal Methods: Promises and Problems”, Luqi and J. Goguen, IEEE Software, 14 (1), 1997: “Software development failures have reached staggering proportions: an estimated $81 billion was spent on cancelled software projects in 1995 and an estimated $100 billion in 1996.” [1] “Experience shows that many of the most vexing problems in software development arise because any computer system is situated in a particular social context..” [1] COMP201 - Software Engineering7

8 Specification in the Software Process Specification and design are inextricably mixed. Architectural design is essential to structure a specification. Formal specifications are expressed in a mathematical notation with precisely defined vocabulary, syntax and semantics. 8COMP201 - Software Engineering

9 Specification and Design 9COMP201 - Software Engineering

10 Specification Techniques Algebraic approach The system is specified in terms of its operations and their relationships Model-based approach The system is specified in terms of a state model that is constructed using mathematical constructs such as sets and sequences. Operations are defined by modifications to the system’s state 10COMP201 - Software Engineering

11 Formal Specification Languages ASML - Abstract State Machine Language Yuri. Gurevich, Microsoft Research, 2001 11COMP201 - Software Engineering

12 Use of Formal Specification Formal specification involves investing more effort in the early phases of software development This reduces requirements errors as it forces a detailed analysis of the requirements Incompleteness and inconsistencies can be discovered and resolved. Hence, savings are made as the amount of rework due to requirements problems is reduced 12COMP201 - Software Engineering

13 Formal Specification Critical systems development usually follows a software process based on the waterfall model. The system requirements and design are expressed in detail, reducing ambiguity, and carefully analysed and refined before implementation begins A large benefit of formal specification is its ability to uncover potential problems and ambiguities in the requirements. Question: Why does this mean the waterfall model is often used? COMP201 - Software Engineering13

14 Interface Specification Large systems are decomposed into subsystems with well- defined interfaces between these subsystems Specification of subsystem interfaces allows independent development of the different subsystems Interfaces may be defined as abstract data types or object classes The algebraic approach to formal specification is particularly well-suited to interface specification 14COMP201 - Software Engineering

15 Sub-System Interface Specification Clear and unambiguous sub-system interface specifications reduce the chance of misunderstandings between a provider and user of a sub-system. The algebraic approach to specification was originally developed for the definition of abstract data types. This idea was then extended to model complete system specifications. COMP201 - Software Engineering15

16 Sub-System Interfaces 16COMP201 - Software Engineering

17 The Structure of an Algebraic Specification sort imports < LIST OF SPECIFICATION NAMES > Informal description of the sort and its operations Operation signatures setting out the names and the types of the parameters to the operations defined over the sort Axioms defining the operations over the sort < SPECIFICATION NAME > (Generic Parameter) introduction description signature axioms 17COMP201 - Software Engineering

18 The Structure of an Algebraic Specification Introduction – Declares the sort (the type name) of the entity being specified, i.e., a set of objects with common characteristics. It also imports other specifications to use. Description – An informal description of the operations to aid understanding. Signature – Defines the syntax of the interface to the abstract data type (object), including their names, parameter list and return types. Axioms – Defines the semantics of the operations by defining axioms characterising the behaviour. COMP201 - Software Engineering18

19 Systematic Algebraic Specification Algebraic specifications of a system may be developed in a systematic way: Specification structuring; Specification naming; Operation selection; Informal operation specification; Syntax definition; Axiom definition. 19COMP201 - Software Engineering

20 Specification Operations Constructor operations. Operations which create entities of the type being specified. Inspection operations. Operations which evaluate entities of the type being specified. To specify behaviour, define the inspector operations for each constructor operation. 20COMP201 - Software Engineering

21 Example: Operations on a List ADT Let us take an example of a “list” abstract data type. A list contains a sequence of elements of some type where elements may be added to the end and removed from the front (this is also called a queue, how does this differ from a stack?). We want operations to Create, Cons (create a new list with an added member), Head (to evaluate the first element), Length and Tail (which creates a list by removing the first (head) element). 21COMP201 - Software Engineering

22 Example: Operations on a List ADT Constructor operations which evaluate to sort List Create, Cons and Tail. Inspection operations which take sort list as a parameter and return some other sort Head and Length. Tail can be defined using the simpler constructors Create and Cons. No need to define Head and Length with Tail. 22COMP201 - Software Engineering

23 Example: List Specification List(Elem) sort List Imports INTEGER Defines a list where elements are added at the end and removed from the front. The operations are Create, which brings an empty list into existence, Cons, which creates a new list with an added member, Length, which evaluates the list size, Head, which evaluates the list size, Head, which evaluates the front element of the list and Tail, which creates a list by removing the head from its input list. Create -> List Cons(List, Elem) -> List Head (List) -> Elem Length (List) -> Integer Tail (List) -> List Head(Create) = Undefined exception (empty List) Head(Cons(L,v)) = if L = Create then v else Head (L) Length(Create) = 0 Length(Cons(L,v)) = Length (L) + 1 Tail(Create) = Create Tail(Cons(L,v)) = if L = Create then Create else Cons(Tail(L), v) 23COMP201 - Software Engineering

24 Interface Specification in Critical Systems Let us consider another example: an air traffic control system where aircraft fly through managed sectors of airspace. Each sector may include a number of aircraft but, for safety reasons, these must be separated. In this example, a simple vertical separation of 300m is proposed. The system should warn the controller if aircraft are instructed to move so that the separation rule is breached. COMP201 - Software Engineering24

25 A Sector Object Critical operations on an object representing a controlled sector are Enter - Add an aircraft to the controlled airspace; Leave - Remove an aircraft from the controlled airspace; Move - Move an aircraft from one height to another; Lookup - Given an aircraft identifier, return its current height; 25COMP201 - Software Engineering

26 Primitive Operations It is sometimes necessary to introduce additional operations to simplify the specification. The other operations can then be defined using these more primitive operations. Primitive operations Create - Bring an instance of a sector into existence; Put - Add an aircraft without safety checks; In-space - Determine if a given aircraft is in the sector; Occupied - Given a height, determine if there is an aircraft within 300m of that height. 26COMP201 - Software Engineering

27 Sector Specification (1) 27COMP201 - Software Engineering

28 Sector Specification (2) 28COMP201 - Software Engineering

29 Specification Commentary for Sector Use the basic constructors Create and Put to specify other operations. Define Occupied and In-space using Create and Put and use them to make checks in other operation definitions. All operations that result in changes to the sector must check that the safety criterion holds. 29COMP201 - Software Engineering

30 Lecture Key Points Formal system specification complements informal specification techniques. Formal specifications are precise and unambiguous. They remove areas of doubt in a specification. Formal specification forces an analysis of the system requirements at an early stage. Correcting errors at this stage is cheaper than modifying a delivered system. Formal specification techniques are most applicable in the development of critical systems and standards. 30COMP201 - Software Engineering

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